Military Orders, Castles, Siege Warfare and Assassins

The Assassins (Arabic: الحشاشينḤashāshīn, also Hashishin, Hassassin, or Hashashiyyin, Persian: حشیشیون / Hašišiyun (UniPers)) were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Syria and Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265. Posing a strong military threat to Sunni Saljuq authority within the Persian territories, the Nizari Ismailis captured and inhabited many mountain fortresses under the leadership of the Persian Hassan-i Sabbah.
The name 'Assassin', from the Arabic Hashishin or "users of hashish",[1] was originally derogatory and used by their adversaries during the Middle Ages. The modern word 'assassin' is derived from this name. However, Amin Malouf states that "The truth is different. According to texts that have come down to us from Alamut, Hassan-i Sabbah liked to call his disciples Asasiyun, meaning people who are faithful to the Asās, meaning 'foundation' of the faith. This is the word, misunderstood by foreign travelers, that seemed similar to 'hashish'". Read much more at Wikipedia.

"The word 'Assassin' was brought back from Syria by the Crusaders, and in time acquired the meaning of murderer. Originally it was applied to the members of a Muslim religious sect - a branch of the Ismailis, and the followers of a leader known as the Old Man of the Mountain. Their beliefs and their methods made them a by-word for both fanaticism and terrorism in Syria and Persia in the 11th and 12th centuries, and the subject of a luxuriant growth of myth and legend. In this book, Bernard Lewis begins by tracing the development of these legends in medieval and modern Europe and the gradual percolation of accurate knowledge concerning the Ismailis. He then examines the origins and activities of the sect, on the basis of contemporary Persian and Arabic sources, and against the background of Middle Eastern and Islamic history. In a final chapter he discusses some of the political, social and economic implications of the Ismailis, and examines the significance of the Assassins in the history of revolutionary and terrorist movements." From Google Books page about **The Assassins: a radical sect in Ishlam** by Bernard Lewis.

"The sect known as "the Assassins," a corruption of an Arabic word that means hashish smoker, is familiar to the West as a mystical cult of killers led by the "Man in the Mountain" encountered by the Crusaders. But it was not defeat at the hands of Christians that ended more than a century of Assassin rule; it was the massive and brutal invasion of Mongols from the East who conquered Assassin strong points and mountain fortifications one by one, crushing nearly all traces of this once fearsome sect. For nearly two centuries the Ftimids, Shi'ite Muslims who believed Mohammed's daughter Ftimah was his successor, attempted to control the Islamic world from their seat in Cairo.

Following the death of the Ftimid caliphate al Mustansir in 1094, members of a faction in Persia that supported a deposed claimant to the caliphate, Nizr, believed they now represented Ftimid interests. These Nizr Ism'ls ended up separating themselves from mainstream Islam and creating their own state in parts of present-day Syria, Iraq, and Iran. In order to establish and maintain regional control, the Nizr Ism'ls used political murders and spies to subjugate or influence rival caliphates and the dominant Saljqs." From Google Books page about **The Secret Order of Assassins: the struggle of the early Nizârî Ismâʻîlîs against the Islamic world** by Marshall G. S. Hodgson.

Birth of the Assassins

"The Assassins
"We first discussed the Sunni/Shia split in Chapter 7. There were additional Shia splits. One took place around 765 about a disputed succession of an Imam: one, the Twelver Shi'a kept a moderate doctrine not too far from Sunni doctrines. The other sect, the Ismailis, followed extremist doctrines and eventually took control of Egypt as the Fatimid Caliphs [BL95, pp. 82-83]. A succession dispute of the Fatimid Caliph in Cairo around 1090 produced a split amongst the Ismailis. The Persian Ismailis rejected the authority of the Fatimid Caliph and established a fortified base in the mountains of Northern Persia and later in Syria. They called themselves the Nizaris (or Nizari Ismailis from the name of one of their early leaders)[1]. Their sect became known in Europe as the Assassins [BL95, pp. 92-93]. The name is derived from the Arabic word for hashish and the political tactics of the sect gave the word the meaning it has in European languages. It does not seem that the Assassins actually used hashish, it more likely that the term was used in a pejorative sense by Muslim rulers.
The Assassins waged a vicious campaign against Sunni rulers by placing men in their courts that would strike at their unsuspecting victim. Of course, the attackers would be killed by the rulers bodyguards, so they were in effect in suicide missions. Twice they tried to kill Saladin, but they failed. Some historians claim that the Assassins attacked Crusaders as well as Muslims, while others claim that they had generally friendly relations with the Crusaders and there was even talk of them converting to Christianity.
Even though the Assassins spread terror amongst the rulers, they were unable to achieve any of their political goals. Eventually, their mountain bases were destroyed by the Mongols and the Assassins disappear as a political force. However, the creed survived, headed by an imam known as Aga Khan. In 1840 they moved from Iran to India and today they number in the millions [1]. About 60 years ago the son of the Aga Khan married a Hollywood actress! There are claims that the sect of Druzes in Lebanon is an offshoot of the Ismailis [2]." From Chapter 12: Crusaders and Mongols by T. Pavlidis. Click through to the page to read the rest of an concise summary of the Crusade period. Includes maps, charts, timelines.

Origins of the Knights Templar

See this web page for an interactive map of Knights Templar possessions:

The Knights of St. John

Read about the Knights of St. John in Wikipedia:
"The Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Hospitallers, Order of Hospitallers, Knights of St John, Order of St John, and currently The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders during the Middle Ages..."
Documentary about the Knights of St. John & The Crusades

external image Knights_hospitaller.jpeg
Read an article about The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem as prototypical NGO, By Ryan Chen-Wing, Tiresias, Vol.1 (2012)

The Battle of Hattin

"The Battle of Hattin (also known as "The Horns of Hattin" because of a nearby extinct volcano of the same name) took place on Saturday, July 4, 1187, between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of the Ayyubid dynasty.
The Muslim armies under Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, removing their capability to wage war.[5] As a direct result of the battle, Islamic forces once again became the eminent military power in the Holy Land, re-conquering Jerusalem and several other Crusader-held cities.[5] These Christian defeats prompted the Third Crusade, which began two years after the Battle of Hattin." Read the whole article at Wikipedia

University Lectures for Secondary Schools

features these video lectures on the Battle of Hattin:

The Battle of Hattin Part 1

The Battle of Hattin Part 2

The Battle of Hattin Part 3